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Israels Barak hopes to extend political career

center_img “Barak is all alone now. He just has too many enemies,” said political analyst Hanan Kristal. “So why is he running? Is that how he wants to end his career? The only explanation is that he is a fighter, and a fighter doesn’t give up.”The 70-year-old Barak earned his reputation as a warrior through a military career that included commanding some of Israel’s most daring hostage release operations and raids.As commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, Barak led the 1972 raid on a hijacked Sabena airliner on the ground in Israel with the commandos disguised as airline technicians. A photograph of Barak standing on the wing in white overalls as the freed hostages were disembarking has become part of Israeli lore.The following year, he led a commando operation in Beirut, sneaking into the city disguised as a woman.A war hero hailed as a brilliant military strategist, he was once seen as a worthy heir to his mentor, the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But in politics, Barak rose and fell quickly.In 1999, just four years after retiring from the military, Barak became prime minister. Political allies and foes alike considered him aloof and imperious, resenting the go-it-alone style that served him in the military. His term lasted less than two years _ the shortest ever for an elected Israeli premier _ his government crumbling with the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising that followed an unsuccessful summit with the Palestinian leader and U.S. president. This strategy does not seem to be working. A new poll published Monday in the Maariv daily predicted Barak’s Independence Party would not receive enough votes to win even a single seat in parliament. The survey, conducted by the TNS/Teleseker agency, questioned 500 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.Similar polls in recent days had forecast Barak would win a maximum of three seats. Under Israel’s system of proportional representation, the number of votes a party receives determines how many seats it controls in parliament.Last week, Netanyahu announced plans for an alliance with a party led by his hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, creating a superbloc that appears positioned to coast to victory.That partnership has fueled speculation that centrist and dovish parties may also join forces. But even that does not bode well for Barak, who has rocky relations with all the major candidates and whose party would likely lose its already small base of supporters to a larger bloc.Leaders of that potential bloc, however, are new political faces generally considered not experienced enough for the top job.Barak’s party is hoping that his experience will be his salvation at a time when the region is churning with popular dissent, civil war and, perhaps, war with Iran. His party’s election ads depict him gazing sternly above the slogan: “Ehud Barak _ because we need a responsible adult here.” Israeli hard-liners didn’t like him any better, accusing him of undercutting the West Bank settlement movement by withholding construction approvals, clearing squatters from West Bank homes and encouraging Netanyahu to support a now-expired, U.S.-initiated slowdown in settlement construction.Barak eventually broke away from Labor to form his new party, Independence, with a few junior allies. The party never resonated with the public, but Barak himself retained his clout in the Netanyahu government, acting as the prime minister’s point man to the United States. There, he was welcomed as a moderating influence on Netanyahu’s hard line toward the Arab world and Iran’s nuclear program.Yet even that alliance _ dating back to the 1970s, when Barak was Netanyahu’s commander in the commando unit _ seems to have suffered with reports that the two are at odds over whether to defer to the U.S. on any attack against Iranian nuclear facilities. Barak’s detractors in Netanyahu’s Likud Party want him replaced and have begun criticizing him openly.Ahead of elections, Barak is trying to carve out his electoral place in the center, by staking out more dovish positions on Iran and separating religion and state. Comments   Share   The vital role family plays in society Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion projectlast_img read more